Brian Bridgewater’s in the clear for the LSU basketball team

After a year of uncertainty, former Scotlandville High School forward Brian Bridgewater has finally received the green light from the NCAA to officially join the LSU basketball program for the upcoming season.

LSU coach Johnny Jones said Monday that Bridgewater, who played three years for Episcopal High before transferring to Scotlandville for the 2012-13 season, is officially a member of the team and has been working out with the Tigers’ returnees and newcomers this summer.

Bridgewater, a 6-foot-4, 265-pound forward, had been in basketball limbo since signing with LSU in the spring of 2013, shortly after leading Scotlandville to a second consecutive Class 5A state title. He was named MVP of the Louisiana High School Athletic Association/State Farm Top 28 tournament after scoring 24 points and pulling down 13 rebounds in an 80-71 victory against Ouachita High.

Bridgewater initially was ruled ineligible by the NCAA but was still allowed to accept an athletic scholarship. While Jones held out hope that Bridgewater would be allowed to join the team at some point last season, he was never cleared to play and could not even practice or travel with the team.

“He was able to enroll in school, and he could do everything in terms of academics — meet with academic tutors and utilizing our academic center for student-athletes,” Jones said on a Southeastern Conference basketball coaches summer teleconference. “Because he’s fulfilled all his obligations now, he’s certainly part of the team. He’s been working out with us this summer, and we look forward to seeing the type of impact that he can possibly make with our team next season.”

Jones said Bridgewater will be classified a sophomore for the 2014-15 season, but he could have an opportunity to receive another year of eligibility based on his academic progress over the next three seasons.

Help wanted

Jones said the Tigers, who were 20-14 last season and made the second round of the National Invitation Tournament, can use the kind of help he thinks Bridgewater has the potential to provide.

In addition to forward Johnny O’Bryant III, who gave up his final year of eligibility to enter the NBA draft and was the 36th pick by the Milwaukee Bucks, LSU lost seniors Andre Stringer and Shavon Coleman.

Those three combined to average 36.3 points last season, which was just a shade under 50 percent of the 74.7 points per game the Tigers scored. Also, senior-to-be Anthony Hickey, Malik Morgan and Shane Hammink were granted their release from the team.

“It’s going to be important we have quality guys come in and fill those roles,” Jones said. “We feel like, through recruitment, we’ve been able to do that.”

The Tigers will welcome newcomers Elbert Robinson III, Jalyn Patterson, Josh Gray and Aaron Epps into the fold along with Bridgewater and North Carolina-Asheville transfer Keith Hornsby.

They’ll join the top three returnees — Jordan Mickey, Jarell Martin and Tim Quarterman — to form the nucleus of the 2014-15 team.

Welcome back

Despite losing O’Bryant a year early, Jones said having him for his junior season may have helped Mickey and Martin decide to return for another year after both considered making the leap to the next level.

“They were on a team with a guy like Johnny who had an opportunity to have an additional year, and Johnny improved his situation on the floor and his draft status,” Jones said, noting it didn’t hurt for Mickey and Martin to also visit with O’Bryant about his situation.

“They were smart enough to see how the draft was going and the number of people that were coming out this year. Physically and mentally, they may have felt like they just weren’t ready just yet. We’re extremely excited to have them coming back because we know they will certainly make a great impact on our team the way they did last year.”

Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter @MicklesAdvocate.